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Criticism of Russell Westbrook taught Thunder a lesson

by Darnell Mayberry Published: June 5, 2011

Westbrook admitted in his season-ending interview that he didn't think the criticism he faced was warranted. But, like always, he refused to dwell on it.

“I just got to continue to do what I'm doing and try to stay positive,” Westbrook said.

Ironically, Kendrick Perkins had a front-row seat to similar scrutiny that landed on another point guard's front stoop three years ago. His name was Rajon Rondo, then in his second season with Boston. The Celtics had just acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to team up with Paul Pierce, and Rondo became a giant question mark to the team's title hopes.

Eventually, Rondo silenced the critics that season.

“Rondo's (criticism) lasted for a little bit. Russ' lasted throughout the whole playoffs, no matter if he played good or bad,” Perkins said. “He still was getting criticized on something. And I thought he handled that, as I say, like a G.”

Perkins, who joined the Thunder in mid-February, was impressed with how a much younger Thunder team avoided the perils of outside noise. In Boston, one of the league's biggest pressure cookers, Perkins had quickly learned to tune out most of it.

“I don't even talk basketball with my own wife; seriously, because it can break up a locker room,” Perkins said. “It can break up a team.”

The remaining Thunder players got that lesson this postseason and, fortunately for them, they didn't have to learn it the hard way. They never succumbed to the scrutiny, and now they should be stronger because of it.

“I'm definitely going to try to come back and be stronger,” Westbrook said.

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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RUSSELL WESTBROOK'S ROLLER COASTER

A look at the criticism Russell Westbrook faced throughout the 2011 playoffs.

April 25: Roasted after Game 4 at Denver, when he took 30 shots to get 30 points while Kevin Durant had just 18 shot attempts in a 104-101 loss.

April 27: Criticized for pouting in a closeout win in Game 5 against Denver, when he played a more passive role and launched only 15 shots and scored just 14 points in 36 minutes.

May 1: Shots were fired at him after Game 1 against Memphis, when he took two more shots than Durant (23 to 21) in a 13-point loss.

May 7: He took the brunt of the blame for the Thunder's offense stalling out in the second half and overtime of a 101-93 overtime loss in Game 3 at Memphis. OKC scored just 17 points in the final 17 minutes.

May 13: Westbrook got ripped after a 95-83 loss in Game 6 at Memphis, another second half collapse, despite being the only Thunder player with a pulse in the final 24 minutes. His three fourth-quarter turnovers drew more attention than his aggressive and much-needed attacks on the rim.

May 17: He went 3-for-15 in a Game 1 loss to Dallas in the Western Conference Finals. Most of his 20 points came at the free throw line, where he converted 14-of-18 attempts.

May 19: Westbrook became as much of a lightning rod as ever when was benched in favor of Eric Maynor for the entire fourth quarter of a Game 2 win at Dallas. Instead of talking about the win, or how three other starters sat for almost the entire fourth period, national pundits focused on the story of Westbrook.

May 22: Following a Game 3 home loss to Dallas, a story in the New York Daily News, quoting an anonymous Thunder team veteran as saying of Westbrook, “He thinks he's better than Kevin Durant.”

May 25: He came under fire after a Game 5 loss against Dallas for allegedly walking off the court without congratulating the Mavericks, as well as false reports of refusing to address the media in the interview room following the game.

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